Cyprus is a country with over 6000 years heritage in great wines and has contributed substantially to the development of viticulture throughout the world. Over the centuries Cyprus has retained a strong tradition in fine wine production. There are about fifteen local and sixty imported varieties of vines. Of the local grapes, two namely the red “Mavro” and the white “Xynisteri”, are used in making the world’s oldest continuously produced wine the “Commandaria”.
The Commandaria is made from The Mavro and Xynisteri grapes. These are dried in the sun for about two weeks leading to the shrivelling of the grapes which in turn concentrates their sugar, and intensifies their aroma. The grapes are then crushed and pressed. The juice is fermented in large open tanks where the high sugar content of the grape juice causes the fermentation to stop at around 18% of alcohol. The large wineries then buy the wine and take it to their cellars in Limassol where alcohol is added for conservation. The wine is then left to mature in large wooden casks. The Commandaria together with the Tokaj wine of Hungary and Slovakia are known as the: “Wines of Kings and Kings of Wines” because they were the preferred wines at the royal courts of France, Russia and England.
Cyprus Wine Tours: Limassol & Paphos districts
A Cyprus wine tour, while visiting the Island, is a must and is the perfect way to sample local delights and enjoy spectacular scenery. Cyprus wine production is one of the World’s oldest dating back to around 3500 BC. There are over 100 varieties of grapes cultivated; most of these are in Limassol and Paphos. Probably the most famous wine Commandaria, a dessert wine made from the Nama grape variety. Legend has it that it was originally made for Richard the Lionheart and the Crusaders. If you’re visiting in September – you can visit the Limassol wine festival. Hundreds of thousands people enjoy free wine, music, dancing and low cost meze, at the open-air theatre. If you’re staying at one of our large Limassol villas, we can help you arrange visits to some of the best vineyards in the region. Along the wine routes of Krasochoria and Koumandaria you can sample the delicious local wines and enjoy the hospitality in the rural villages. Cyprus, beside being home to the world’s oldest continuously produced wine, the sweet Commandaria, the island also boasts the highest production rate, in the world, of grapes in proportion to its size and population. Most Cyprus vineyards are small and grow indigenous varieties of grapes for wine. Donkeys and oxen are still used to plough some of them. Cultivated vineyards cover a large percentage of the country’s hilly and mountainous land, from sea level up to 1,500 metres, predominantly on the southern slopes of the Troodos in the Lemesos district and the south western in the Paphos district. There are four distinct wine tours that centre on these areas, which could range from a half-day to a week long. Wine tasting figure prominently on all of these tours.
First Wine Tour
The first wine tour is in Limassol itself, where the four biggest wine companies in Cyprus have tasting rooms and shops.
Second Wine Tour
The second wine tour, Lemesos District East, begins with a drive up the Troodos road from Lemesos to the Kourris Valley. There are wineries in the villages of Pytsilia, Mandria and Koilani, to name just a few. Vouni is home to some of Cyprus’s best vineyards for red grapes.
Third Wine Tour
The third wine tour, Lemesos District West, takes in several boutique wineries as well as the whitewashed village of Omodos, where there are three additional wineries. Just off the attractive central square, you can have an up-close look at a traditional wine press.
Fourth Wine Tour
The fourth wine tour explores mainly the highlands north of Paphos.
Production of Wine
The origin of the Malvasia grape, used for the production of the Madeira’s wine, can also be traced to cyprus. In the past grapes were being collected by the farmers in the countryside, this usually took several days until the lorries were loaded for the grapes to be transported to the major wineries in Limassol . The grapes thus suffered considerably in the sun or the occasional rain, and the juice of the ripest grapes was lost during the long wait until finally reaching the winery. Consequently this negatively affected the quality of the produced table wines. However, during the past twenty five years the situation has substantially changed. Nowadays grapes are collected and packed in small crates, replacing the large traditional baskets carried by donkeys. The crates are then delivered by pick-up trucks to the winery. The grapes thus arrive at the winery in perfect condition for the production of high quality wine. The biggest improvement in the quality of the Cyprus wine came as a result of the creation of over 35 small modern wineries, boutique wineries, which have been built in the hills, right in the middle of the vineyards. At the same time, the large traditional wine producers in Limassol, KEO, ETKO, SODAP and LOEL, have also been actively upgrading their facilities and vastly improving the quality of their wines by adding regional production centres in the Krasochoria (wine villages) areas at foothills of the Troodos mountains and close to the local vineyards. Some of the large wineries are also using imported varieties, such as Shiraz , Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The “Xynisteri” grape, which is grown in Cyprus in large quantities is the traditional grape used for making white wine. The “Xynisteri” which is grown on slopes at high altitudes has low acidity and when picked when its ripe it also has the fruit flavours and extracts. Occasionally, small quantities of more aromatic grapes is blended in, such as the Malaga and the Kamelle grape in some white wines. As far as the red wine is concerned, the major local grape is Mavro, which means “black” in Greek. This grape is grown in larger quantities than the white ones. The Mavro grape has a pale colour and low acidity, and is therefore is usually blended with other reds of intense colour and higher acidity, such as, the local Ofthelmo grape. The “Maratheftico” which is another local black grape is better for blending due to its good acidity and heavy tannin. Due to the small available quantities of the Ofthalmo and Maratheftico, many of wine makers use imported varieties for blending such as the Mataro , Carignan and Grenache. However, some of the imported red varieties, the Mourvedre, Shiraz and the Cabernet Sauvignon are produced unblended. Additionally, there are also many high quality rose wines in Cyprus which are suitable for the local climate. Thus, visitors to Cyprus find a varied and wide range of locally produced wines and can be enjoyed with a local meal or a Cyprus Meze under the warm and ever-shining Cypriot sun.
The Cyprus Wine Museum
Located at: 42 Paphos street – Erimi – Limassol The creation of the Cyprus Wine Museum was inspired by the fact that Cyprus is one of the first wine producing countries and that Erimi village is at the crossroads of the wine routes of Cyprus in close proximity to the prehistoric settlement of Sotira, where the oldest remains of grape seeds have been found and near to Kolossi Castle, a medieval Commandery of the Hospitaller Knights that gave the name to the Commandaria Wine first produced by them, gives the Cyprus Wine Museum its perfect location. The museum, the creation of Anastasia Guy, using traditional and contemporary methods presents a journey through the centuries of Cyprus wine history. Ancient jars and vases, medieval drinking vessels, old documents and instruments illustrate how wine was produced, stored and enjoyed in the past. Photographic backdrops and audiovisual equipment bring all aspects of wine making to live, from cultivation to production.